"The American Kitefliers Association"

It says on the AKA website, www.kite.org, that, "Founded in 1964 by the late Robert M. Ingraham of New Mexico, the American Kitefliers Association (AKA) has thousands of members in 25 countries, making it the largest association of kite fliers and kite clubs in the world. Our purpose is to educate the public in the art, history, technology, and practice of building and flying kites - to advance the joys and values of kiting in all nations.

"We strive to promote public awareness of the pleasures and educational opportunities that kites provide. They can remind us about how we interact with our environment and each other. Kites can be a source of community building, breaking down barriers that typically prevent us from interacting. No words are needed to fly a kite!"

The AKA holds its annual convention somewhere in the U.S. in October.  The location rotates from the Eastern, middle, and Western part of the continent. Last year (2017), the convention was in Ocean City, MD.  It was the 40th year the convention had been held.  The first convention was also held in Ocean City.  This year, it will be October 15 - 21 in Shreveport, LA.

So what happens at a kite convention?  It happens to be where the Grand National Championships take place.  Competitions are help in the areas of kite making, kite fighting, dual-line individual, pairs and team precision flying and choreography as well as quad-line flying.  Plus competitions are held with indoor kite flying!  

There are also workshops that take place each morning before lunch; after which mass ascensions take place before competitions commence.  The workshops are led by various members the AKA and can range from kite-making workshops to sport kite rules meetings to history of the AKA workshops to presentation from kite manufacturers. Like for example, next year I may present a workshop making small kite called a Genki using mylar film, bamboo, and grass stalks.  

The mass ascensions happen at 1:00 after lunch.  Each day, a particular kite is spotlighted.  Like say on Tuesday, anyone with a delta kite goes to the flying field.  Then at 1:00 sharp, the announcer tells everyone to launch their delta kite.  It's really neat when hundreds of delta kites go up at the same time.  Then on Wednesday, another kite is spotlighted - cellular kites such as box kites.  Then on Thursday, maybe flat kites will be launched; and on Friday, kites like parafoils and inflatable kites.  Etc.  Plus each day, pins are given out for that particular day and by the end of the week, if you've been to all mass ascensions, then you will have all the pins and they will form a pattern, usually a kite.

On Friday evening, there is an auction and banquet, and on Saturday evening, there is the awards banquet.  But, the best part of the convention is the people.  I've been going to the convention off and on since 1982.  In that time period, I have come to know many people, really neat people.  There aren't many I do not like.  Kite fliers are some of the coolest, most laid back people in the world.

Next week, I'll try to explain more about the competitions and the games we play.

 

In the Beginning

I've been flying kites for as long as I can remember. My first actual memories of flying kites were from when I was in middle school, or junior high school as it was a called back then.  I lived in a neighborhood that backed up to a farm. I would head down into the fields to fly kites when they weren't plowed or growing.   I flew the old plastic Gayla kites and earlier, the store-bought wood and paper, diamond and box kites.  I must have been in elementary school when I was buying the paper and stick kites.  

In high school, I'd go to the recreation area at the dam and climb trees, extracting kites.  At the end of the day, I'd leave with several kites which were still flyable.  Many of these kites would end up flying high in the sky only to be lost when the string broke or when they too got caught by a kite-eating tree.

I also used to make kites out of merchandise bags and weeds that I found around vacant lots and fields.  With a crepe paper tail, I would get several kites in the air at once, tying them off to a clump of grass.  Sometime between junior high and high school, I visited the kite store in San Francisco and bought some Indian fighter kites.  They were made from tissue paper and bamboo. The frame consisted of a keel (vertical stick) and a crosspiece. The crosspiece was bent from wingtip to wingtip crossing the keel above the point directly between the wingtips, so the crosspiece was bent down (not back).  That's how I made my "merchandise" bag-kites.

It was also during this time when I became aware of the American Kitefliers Association (AKA), a club who's members consisted of grown people who flew kites!  I was overjoyed.  Not only were there other people like me who were not kids anymore who flew kites, but this meant I didn't need to feel silly when told that I was too old to be flying kites. Yes!  People actually told me that.  You know the Bible saying, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things." The AKA's existence gave me permission to fly kites and feel good about it. To feel good about oneself is so important.  They gave me confidence in myself that I didn't have before.  Now, I say, "when I was a child, I did as a child and flew kites.  Now that I am a man, I still fly kites!"